Bread For Dogs
Sunday, August 20th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. 17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. 18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? 20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. 25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. 29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. 30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. 32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
Father, we ask now that you would open the ears of our heart, that we might understand your word. And having understood your word, the mystery of Your Kingdom, we might open our mouths and pour forth praise that is worthy of You. We ask for you Holy Spirit to guide us unto the truth, and we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
The Lord Jesus has done all things well. Jesus has done all things well. As we pickup in chapter 7 of Mark’s Gospel we recall that Jesus has just laid the smack down on the scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees were critiquing Jesus because his disciples were not washing their hands. Jesus claps back saying that the Pharisees elevate their manmade traditions (like handwashing) above the authority of God, and they have so trampled upon God’s command to honor father and mother, that they deserve to die. Jesus says their disregard for God’s law, while paying lip service to it, makes them worthy of death.
Jesus says in Mark 7:13, just before our text begins, “[You make] the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
We have seen a continual problem not only amongst the Pharisees, but also amongst the disciples and the crowds: they are unable to distinguish between sign and thing signified. They cannot see the difference between earthly sign and spiritual reality, between shadow and substance.
So far, no one has been able to see through the external miracles that Jesus performs into the truth of who Jesus is. No one recognizes this is God in the flesh.
And here now in our passage, we see that they are unable to discern the true meaning of the ceremonial law. They think that food and handwashing and physical cleanliness is all that God commands, when in reality, these are merely signs to teach us about the need to become spiritually clean, spiritually pure (to be baptized), so that we can partake of spiritual food (namely the Lord Jesus).
As the Apostle Paul says in Titus 1:17, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”
Where did Paul get this teaching? He got it from Jesus, and He got it from being given spiritual insight into the true meaning of the Old Testament.
So this theme of true purity and true defilement is what unites our text, and our text divides neatly into three sections.
Division of the Text
In verses 14-23, Jesus teaches us the nature of true defilement, and then gives two real-life illustrations of this point in the following two sections.
In verses 24-30, Jesus casts out an unclean spirit from an unclean Gentile who turns out to be spiritually clean.
In verses 31-37, Jesus shows us that what comes out of him, his word, his spirit, even his spit, can make a man holy. He makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.
So that is the division of our text, let us now consider his teaching on true defilement.
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
On the surface this might sound like Jesus is contradicting the laws of Moses.
For example, Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 both give long lists of what Israel could and could not eat.
If it divides the hoof and chews the cud, it is clean, you can eat it. But if it only divides the hoof, or only chews the cud, or does neither, then it is unclean, it will defile you.
God says in Leviticus 11:43-45, “Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. 44 For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45 For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
So these are the kinds of laws that the disciples and the Pharisees are accustomed to. And they come with divine authority. This is the law of God.
How then is what Jesus saying, not a contradiction? This is what the disciples want to know.
17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. 18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
So Jesus makes an appeal here to what should be obvious to everyone. Where does food go? It goes into the body and then out into the sewer (draught). How then can something physical like food make the spiritual part of man defiled? If food does not enter our heart/our soul, how then can it make us unclean? It can’t.
What Jesus is explaining here is what the Levitical food laws always taught.
Genesis 1 is very clear that everything that God created is good, and that includes pigs and shellfish, bacon and shrimp, things that were temporarily forbidden by Moses. But nothing is unclean or evil in itself.
What Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are teaching is that for Israel as a holy nation, these animals are going to be a sign of spiritual cleanliness or spiritual dirtiness.
So to summarize: Something can be called unclean in two ways, 1) it can be called unclean in itself (which nothing is) or 2) it can be unclean in what it signifies. So a pig might be externally dirty, but spiritually it cannot defile you, and therefore in itself it is clean. It’s just a pig. But a pig insofar as it signifies a filthy lifestyle, rolling in the dirt of sin, is unclean. And the Jews were commanded to observe this distinction to teach them that if you want to be close to God, you need to be spiritually clean.
The Jews were meant to see what is obvious in Jesus’ parable, that food doesn’t go into the heart, and from that truth, conclude that God must have given this distinction between clean and unclean animals to teach them a lesson.
And what was that lesson? That clean and unclean animals represent different kinds of people, different kinds of nations. Are you a vulture or a dove? Are you a lamb without blemish, or a ravaging wolf? Animals are the sign, and people are what they signify.
This is especially obvious when you consider that the entire sacrificial system revolved around this principle. Animals represent the worshipper; they can represent the priest or nation or a child or our works. And the only animals you were allowed to sacrifice were clean animals that had no spot or blemish (Bulls, Sheep, Goats, Doves, or Pigeons).
This is how King David (who knew this) could say things in Psalm 51 like, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
So what makes a man’s heart pure? That he is humble and contrite before the Lord.
What makes a man’s offering acceptable to God? That it is offered to Him in true faith and love.
As God says in Hosea 6:6, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
Moses and David, Hosea and all the prophets, knew the meaning of the food laws, that they were teaching tools for Israel. And yet the Pharisees and the disciples and the crowds don’t get it. They do not yet have ears to hear or eyes to see what is obvious, “that whatever a man eats, only goes into the body, it cannot defile his heart.”
If that is true, where then does uncleanness come from?
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
The source of evil and uncleanness in the world is not found in any material substance. There is no black goo out there called evil that has tainted everything. And in fact, evil has no substance, it is strictly a privation, evil is only an adjective that can only corrupt the good things God has given being to.
As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:4, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.”
So man’s body, his mouth, his stomach, insofar as it has material existence, is a good creation of God. What makes a man spiritually clean or unclean is the immaterial, non-physical part of him called the heart, or the soul, or the mind. These are all synonyms for that rational part of our nature that reasons and wills, judges and loves.
Jesus says, it is out of that place, the invisible heart of man, that proceed evil thoughts.
Jesus then goes on to list twelve different sins that proceed from those thoughts: adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts and so forth. So for man, what takes place in our heart/mind/soul, that immaterial part of us, moves us to do things with our body that are indeed corrupt.
So the disciples can eat bread without washing their hands, and so long as they eat with thanksgiving in their heart, no defilement comes to them.
And at the same time, you could bathe your whole body, clean all your pots and utensils, and eat only clean animals, organic with no preservatives all natural, but if you eat that clean food without thanksgiving, without any real love for God, you are defiled. Not because of the food, but because of your heart as you eat that food.
Our culture loves to locate sin everywhere else except where it actually is. We always have someone else to blame, some mitigating circumstance, some excuse for why we did what we did. It’s always someone else’s fault. This is what Adam and Eve did in the garden, and it is what our sinful natures love to do.
So Jesus exposes our wickedness and removes every excuse by telling us exactly where the problem is. You cannot blame the food for why you are a glutton. You cannot blame the alcohol for why you committed blasphemy. You cannot blame the woman’s beauty for why you committed fornication. You cannot blame anything external to you, for the sinful actions of your heart. Those things might be the occasion for sin, but they are not the cause or source of sin.
Jesus says, “All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
So this is the nature of true defilement. It is not what goes into the body but what comes out of your heart that makes you either clean or unclean.
To drive this truth home, Mark gives us two scenes to illustrate this point. The first scene is Jesus casting out an unclean spirit from an unclean woman’s daughter.
24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.
In the days of David and Solomon, Israel had an alliance with the King of Tyre, and Tyre supplied both raw materials and workersfor the construction of the temple. Hiram of Tyre did all the brass work on the temple (1 Kings 7). So once upon a time, the holiest place on earth, was constructed with the help and materials of those in Tyre.
However, as time went on and Israel apostatized, so also did Tyre and Sidon.
The most notorious villain that came from this region was the Sidonian princess Jezebel, who married King Ahab. Jezebel promoted idolatry, she had hundreds of false prophets, she persecuted Elijah, and because of her, Tyre and Sidon came to symbolize pride and harlotry (Is. 23, Ezek. 26-28, Amos 1:9-10, Zech. 9:2-4). If ever there was an unclean land with unclean women, this was it. And this is where Jesus chooses to go, and who comes knocking on his door?
25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
Notice Mark calls our attention to this woman’s language and birthplace, she is a Greek-speaking Gentile born in the Syrian part of Phoenicia. In Matthew’s version he simply calls her a Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:22).
Based on these facts, we should be suspicious of her. Remember Jezebel.
However, this woman insists that Jesus come and cast forth the devil out of her daughter. She has heard and believes that Jesus can clean the unclean.
Knowing this, Jesus gives her a test.
27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet (οὐ γὰρ καλόν) to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. 29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. 30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
What is the test Jesus gives her?
He sets up a scenario where hungry children need to eat, and it would be morally wrong to feed the dogs with the children’s food. The children are of course the children of Israel (the Jews), and the dogs are the unclean Gentiles (this woman and her daughter).
Jesus is calling this woman a dog.
Rather than being insulted, this woman recognizes that Jesus is inviting her to enter the story and wrestle with Him. He wants to make known to the world (and especially to the Jews) how great her faith is.
How does the woman respond? She calls Jesus, “Lord.” “Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”
Remember the feeding of the 5,000, there were twelve baskets of bread leftover. Jesus fed in abundance the children of Israel, and this woman recognizes the priority Israel has in being God’s covenant people. The children should be fed first because God adopted them and promised to feed them. However, just because the children must be fed first, does not mean the Gentiles cannot, at the same time, eat the scraps.
The woman enters Jesus’ story, she accepts her place as a little dog under the table, and because of her humility and faith, Jesus says, “for this saying, go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.”
What made the daughter clean? It was her faithful mother, getting on the floor, crawling in the dirt under the table, looking for scraps from Jesus. And because of her faith, the devil is cast out.
Do you see the contrast Jesus gives us. There are scribes and Pharisees and Jews who are externally clean, they wash and eat the bread. But because they eat with unbelief, they are actually defiled. And then you have a Gentile Woman, this Canaanite, who is externally unclean and knows it (she’s a dog). But she is willing to do whatever it takes to get to Jesus. Faith has made her daughter clean.
Do you wrestle with God like this woman does? Are you persistent in your prayers? Or do you stop asking when heaven seems silent?
The Syrophoenician woman does what the patriarch Jacob did right before God changed his name to Israel. She wrestles with God and prevails. She argues with Jesus, and wins. This is what God wants from His people. He wants us to know our place, to own up to the sin that proceeds from inside us (no excuses), and then He wants us to do whatever it takes to get the bread of heaven. To partake of Him who is eternal life.
When God plays hard to get like he does with this woman, it is not because he is angry or upset or indifferent to you, it is because he loves you and wants your faith to grow. He wants your desires to mature. He wants your appetite to grow from settling for frozen tv-dinners, when a five-star feast awaits you. God wants us to desire the infinite glories of His kingdom, more than the fleeting pleasures of this world.
He says in Jeremiah 29:13, “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
2 Chronicles 16:19 says, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
This is why God tests us. It is why Jesus tests this woman. To make known to her and to us and to the whole world, the cleansing power of faith.
Finally, we are given a second scene to illustrate the nature of true defilement.
I will summarize this scene for us.
In verse 31, Jesus enters “the coasts of Decapolis,” this was where he earlier cast out a legion of demons into a herd of swine, so this predominately unclean Gentile territory.
In verse 32, they bring to Jesus “one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech,” and Jesus proceeds to heal him. But the way that Jesus heals this man is rather strange.
Verse 33-34 says, “he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.”
Why does Jesus put his fingers in this man’s ears, and why does he spit and touch the man’s tongue? Let’s start with the fingers in the ears.
In Exodus 21:1-6, we are given the ritual for a servant to be adopted into his master’s household.
Exodus 21:5-6 says, “if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.”
This ritual of putting a hole in the ear was to signify that the servant’s ear is ever open to his master’s word.The servant could have gone free, but freely chooses to become a permanent servant of the master whom he loves. And because he is now a full member of the household, and adopted son, he is able to inherit what his master bestows.
This ritual was what God had done for Israel. He adopted them as his firstborn son, he had opened their ears to hear his voice, and if they love and serve him, they will inherit the promised land.
This is what Jesus is reenacting when he opens this man’s ears. His fingers are the aul (the needle) that opens the ear, and by doing this, Jesus is adopting him into the kingdom.
What about the spit and the tongue?
The first thing we should recognize is that the things that are gross and unclean in us, like our tongues and our spit, are pure in Jesus. Jesus’ spit, Jesus’ saliva, is actually cleansing.
And what Jesus is doing here is recreating man. How was Adam formed? From the dust of the earth, and the breath of God (Gen. 2:7).
And how is this deaf and mute man re-formed? By the hands of God in his ears and the wet breath of God on his tongue.
This is exactly what Isaiah prophesied 700 years prior.
Isaiah 35:4-6, 8 says, “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: Behold, your God will come with vengeance, Even God with a recompence; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, And the tongue of the dumb sing: For in the wilderness shall waters break out, And streams in the desert… And an highway shall be there, and a way, And it shall be called The way of holiness; The unclean shall not pass over it…”
Jesus is the God who comes to show us the way of holiness. And if we would be holy as he is holy, then we must observe his teaching in this gospel:
First own up to where evil truly comes from, it comes from within. We must stop blaming other people, we must stop blaming our circumstances, we must stop making excuses for our sins.
Second, we must humble ourselves like the Syrophoenician woman, we must be willing to get on the ground and wrestle with God for his blessing.
And Third, we must be willing to have Jesus make us uncomfortable so that he can remake us, poke open our ears, spit, and touch our tongue. All these things He must do, if we would become servants of The Master, and sons of the Most High King.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.